FULTON, NY – The third annual Parent University was “phenomenal,” said Geri Geitner, the director of student support services at Fulton City School District.
“The best part for me, was to see everyone having fun. To see that school is fun, learning is fun, and to see parents and children getting to enjoy that together,” she said.
The event, in its third year, has grown bigger and better with each passing year. Saturday, (April 1) G. Ray Bodley High School hosted the event with five hours of free family fun.
With a focus on bridging relationships between the community, the school, and student’s home life, Parent University hosted 27 local organizations to offer information, more than 30 workshop sessions on a wide variety of relevant topics, and showcased student work such as a district art show and performances including two scenes from the Quirk’s Players spring musical, The Addams Family.
“New this year, we added family sessions which included family art, virtual field trips that parents and children could attend together, and a nutrition session that allowed families to make and take their own one dish chicken casserole to have for dinner tonight,” Geitner said.
Such sessions as family budgeting, applying to college, basic CPR, the amazing results of reading to your children, safe and responsible use of social media, high school work study/internship program, and keeping children safe were among several other sessions offered to parents while children 4-12 were occupied with active child care in the gymnasium.
To make the event even more accessible to every family in the district, transportation was provided upon request and breakfast, lunch, and snacks were provided throughout the day.
Families could take advantage of on-site physicals and immunizations by appointment and registration for Universal Pre-K and kindergarten.
“Our kindergarten and UPK registration was steady all day long, so we’ve been introducing a lot of new families and students to our district today. It’s great that they can have this event be their introduction and they can take advantage of so many opportunities right off the bat,” Geitner said.
Additionally, members of the district’s board of education and Superintendent of Schools, Brian Pulvino were available at each session throughout the day for any questions, concerns, or conversations that parents or students addressed.
“The conversations were great. Topics ranged from communication during emergency closings or school delays, the budget and staffing, state testing, and student opportunities. We got a lot of great feedback and comments, it’s always nice to hear from the parents directly,” said board president, David Cordone.
The interactive event encouraged as much participation as possible by offering parents raffle tickets for each session they attended and each agency table they visited for information. Parents and children alike then chose from more than 20 gift baskets to enter their ticket for the chance to win.
Carolyn Raff, attending Parent University with her 5-year-old grandson, Jared, won two baskets which she said was one of her favorite parts of the day.
“I never win anything, so to win two prizes was just awesome,” she said, and an excited pre-schooler who won a few new books and a fluffy slime making kit was just as thrilled.
However, even a slime making kit didn’t beat the fun time he had playing in the gym for the supervised children’s activities, he said, which was his favorite part of the day.
As a parent with one student in each level of education- high school, Jr. High and elementary school, Theresa Tice found Parent University to be extremely informational.
“I really enjoyed the CPSE to CSE transition session and the Head Start sessions. I was given a lot of information. Today just showed that parents have choices, they just have to get the information,” Tice said.
Twenty seven community agencies represented at the event found the gathering of parents and community support to be beneficial as well.
A care manager from Catholic Charities said the event was “outstanding.”
“The amount of everything that was available was just outstanding. Community resources, workshops, activities for kids and parents, breakfast, lunch, snacks, the presence of school staff from all the different schools and even the opportunity for us as an agency to collaborate with other agencies, it was truly beneficial for everyone,” she said.
School administration were equally as happy with the day’s outcome.
“This was awesome,” said Betsy Conners, executive director of instruction and assessment. “This venue, the layout worked much better than last year. Having the kids perform with the Addams Family and the art show really brought more families out and we had people attend every session, families were leaving with their stomachs full and with their hands full. This was a great way to share all the great things that Fulton City School District is doing with our community and families.”
The attendance numbers backed the district’s effort to reform the event to be accessible to as many families as possible.
Though final details on the number of attendees were not yet available, Geitner said more families had registered in advance than previous years and more families came in throughout the day to take advantage of the requested shorter sessions if they could not stay for the entire event.
“It’s heartwarming,” Superintendent Pulvino said. “You really see the power in our community when in comes to education. We can come together to share information, celebrate, and break bread. It all just comes back to working together, our priority to reach every student, every day. This is a true testament to everyone- our community organizations, our school administration and staff, our families, our students, everyone to come together to benefit all.”